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Cherry Eye Surgery

Background
 “Cherry eye” refers to the presence of a red,  round structure in the inside corner of the eye of a dog.

Anatomy
Dogs and cats have an upper and lower eyelid like humans, but they also have a third eyelid, or nictitans, which provides additional protection for the eye.  The nictitans has a tear-producing gland within it and normal remains hidden from view below the lower eyelid.

The Disease
Cherry eye typically occurs in puppies and is seen most frequently in Pugs, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels and Beagles.  For reasons that are poorly understood, the gland of the nictitans becomes inflamed and swollen and protrudes (or prolapses) out from under the lower eyelid.  Unfortunately, the gland often remains swollen and permanently prolapsed despite medical treatment.  The disease can occur in one or both eyes.

Treatment
Eye drops and ointments are often used initially to try and shrink swelling and redness, but usually fail to resolve the problem.  If the gland remains prolapsed, surgery is recommended to prevent damage to the gland and its ability to produce tears and to prevent damage to the cornea (the clear covering of the eye).

Cherry Eye Surgery
Many different surgical procedures have been developed to correct this problem.  Early surgery simply removed the affected gland.  However, this often resulted in decreased tear production and related eye problems and is no longer advocated.

Current techniques involve replacing and tacking the gland back in its normal position.  The most recent technique, known as the “Pocket Technique”, sutures the gland into a pocket created in the third eyelid.  This procedure is associated with the lowest rate of recurrence (less than 10%) and is the one I perform.

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, often at the time of spay or neuter.  Pets typically go home the same day.  Aftercare involves applying eye ointment twice daily and a protective collar to prevent scratching or rubbing of the eye for 10 days.

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